Toronto Jazz Festival

TO Jazz Review: Maceo Parker, June 25, Toronto Star Stage

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Toronto – With the early start and finish of Martha Wainwright’s performance at The Great Hall, I had some time to jet back to Nathan Phillips to catch the lion’s share of Maceo Parker’s set. Some of our regular readers might think that the Panic Manual is pretty enamoured with Maceo Parker, but they’d be wrong. It’s mostly just me.

With the G20 in full-swing, most of downtown Toronto was pretty barren. To no surprise, the crowd was a little on the sparse side of what I`m used to for the main stage headliner at Nathan Phillips Square. Despite all this, I felt a strong kinship with the crowd. These are the folks who said “G20 Schmee Twenty. I want to go dance and listen to funk music!” In short, these are my types of folks.

And dance they did. Maceo Parker and his band did what they do best: played fun dance-friendly funk. The brave souls that ventured out were treated to a night of great music from a legend who cut his teeth with the Godfather of Soul himself, Mr. James Brown.

TO Jazz Review: Martha Wainwright, June 25, The Great Hall

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Toronto – The Toronto Jazz Festival kicked off last night with a stellar performance by Martha Wainwright at The Great Hall. It was an amazingly intimate affair powered by some truly stunning vocals. Martha blew the roof of the hall as she sparrowed her way through songs by French singer Edith Piaf. I was completely unprepared for how consummate a musician she is. It’s too bad that much of the audience missed the first half of the set.

I was really looking forward to checking out The Great Hall; it was my first time at this venue. I arrived as per the website billing at 9 pm sharp, hoping that I’d have time to grab a drink before the show. To my dismay, the show was in full swing and had been for nearly 40 minutes. Apparently the actual show time was 8 pm. The lady at the door explained that they tried to delay as much as possible. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Factual error on the internet? Yeah right. Give me a break!” I know! I didn’t think it was possible either.

Martha, with a voice like that, I could never stay mad at you. Let`s never fight again.

Nevertheless, the management at The Great Hall isn’t so Great after all.  The fact of the matter is that The Great Hall doesn’t post event timing on their website, so the only resource we can go by is the main TO jazz site. If that website says 9 and the plan was to play at 8, then change the plan. Beg and plead with the artist and audience to start later. If someone asked Martha to come out and explain the situation and ask the audience if it was OK to start at 9 to accommodate the mixup, who would object? All I’m saying is $30 + ticketmaster surcharges is a lot to pay to miss half a set.

It’s a good thing that Martha’s performance was so captivating. Her stage banter was endearing and her voice has both nuance and power. Near the end of the set she was bobbing from side to side. Her antics painted a childish grin on my face. Martha, with a voice like that, I could never stay mad at you. Let`s never fight again. Many audience members sat down on the floor in the wings of The Great Hall to soak in the experience. If I had heard the entire set, this could very well have been my first 5 star review. C’etait vraiment incroyable.

TO Jazz Preview: Tips, Tricks, and Tomfoolery

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Everything, Toronto Jazz Festival | 7 Comments

Toronto – The Toronto Jazz Festival starts this Friday with musicians all over the city getting ready to serenade our world leaders. Like so many Toronto festivals, it can be overwhelming to try and decide what shows too see. Thankfully, we’ve compiled this handy dandy guide to help you navigate through all the music that will be playing from June 25 through July 4.

1 – There Be Riches Off The Beaten Path

There are some amazing acts that will be appearing on the main stage at Nathan Phillips Square. While this is a good go to option when it comes to choosing a show, there are definitely many benefits to be had for those willing to wander from the road well-traveled. Great musicians will be playing at all sorts of fun venues. In addition to better sound and a more intimate experience, it will also be cheaper than those main stage acts. Consider:

  • Martha Wainwright (June 25, The Great Hall)
  • Lady Son (June 26, Lula Lounge)
  • Esthero (June 27, Lee’s Palace)
  • Grace Kelly (June 29, Trane Studio)

2 – Find The Free

With most of the tickets for the headliners in the $30-40 price range, going all out at the jazz fest can be an expensive proposition. It’s comforting to know that there are free shows all over the city. Pretty much everything at the main stage that happens before 8 pm is free admission. Furthermore, the main stage at Nathan Phillips Square is basically an open air tent, and there are plastic chairs just on the other side of the tent in the Peace Garden.  Wink wink. Here are some worthwhile free shows:

  • Brandi Disterheft (June 26, Jazz FM Broadcast Centre)
  • Jaffa Road (June 27, Mainstage) – NXNE Review
  • Lost Fingers, Chaka Khan, Macy Gray (July 3, Yonge & Dundas)

3 – The Grandmasters Can Turn It On Like A Switch

With so many great musicians playing at the festival, it can be difficult to choose which shows to attend. Thankfully you’ve already taken some of my penny saving advice to heart and have some leftover funds to splurge on the musical equivalent of fine cognac. The people at the top of their game in the jazz world have a mastery of music that can be turned on like a switch. They’re Jedi masters that communicate with each other and with you using only the force.

  • Herbie Hancock (Jun 26, Mainstage)
  • Stanley Clarke featuring Hiromi (June 28, Mainstage)
  • Dave Brubeck (June 29, Koerner Hall)
  • Keith Jarrett (June 30, Four Seasons)

4 – Jazz Fuses With Everything

At the heart of it, jazz is an improvisational music. Under the right hands it can fuse with pretty much anything. For hip-hop with jazz elements, you can see Andy Milne & Dapp Theory, or the Roots. For soul and African influences, there is Angelique Kidjo. For some soul and funk, check out Mavis Staples or Maceo Parker. There’s amazing music for all stripes, so get out there and soak it in!

  • The Roots (June 29, Mainstage)
  • Angelique Kidjo (July 1, Mainstage)
  • Andy Milne & Dapp Theory (July 3, Trane Studio)

TO Jazz: 2010 Lineup Announced

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival | 1 Comment

Toronto – The Toronto Jazz Festival lineup has been announced and its solid. This year blends exciting young talent with a number of old masters. It’s interesting is to see some acts combining the old guard with the new generation. Jazz is a music built on tradition and continuity. The music of today is built by standing on the shoulders of the giants of yesterday. It’s cool to see the baton being passed. Here’s a sneak-peak:

Stanley Clark Band featuring Hiromi – June 28

There is little doubt that bassist Stanley Clark is a huge name in the jazz world. His work in the 70’s with Return To Forever helped pioneer the rock-fusion movement in jazz. He’s pairing up with 30 year old Hiromi Uehara, one of the most inventive young pianists around. Hiromi’s style is rooted in blues and jazz, but she uses those roots to explore the music of her generation on her own terms.

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock & Jack DeJohnette – June 30

Now Keith Jarrett is no longer a member of the young up-and-comers club. He’s one of the most celebrated pianists in the world. But the important thing to remember is that he used to be. There are very few child prodigies in any given field (music, mathematics, celebrity chefs) that grow up and actually fulfill the expectations heaped upon them. Keith Jarrett is one of those rare cats that not only met, but blew away all expectations. He’s playing with long-time collaborators Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette at the Four Seasons Centre.

The Roots – June 29

The jazz festival serves up more than just straight-ahead jazz. Years past have included performances from soul Queen Sharon Jones, and funk legend Maceo Parker (also playing this summer). This year hip hop band The Roots will be bringing their influential music to the mainstage at Nathan Phillips Square.

There’s so much more to talk about: Taj Mahal, Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, and African Guitar Summit. Stay tuned for more previews as the summer heats up.

The Toronto Jazz Festival runs from June 25 to July 4. Check out the full lineup here.